Ships hit by U-boats


American Steam tanker

Photo courtesy of SSHSA

Type:Steam tanker
Tonnage8,207 tons
Completed1921 - Northwest Bridge & Iron Co, Portland OR 
OwnerSwiftsure SS Co (Marine Transport Lines), Jersey City NJ 
Date of attack8 Oct 1942Nationality:      American
FateSunk by U-68 (Karl-Friedrich Merten)
Position34° 40'S, 18° 25'E - Grid GR 5939
Complement33 (0 dead and 33 survivors).
RouteAbadan - Capetown 
Cargo70.000 barrels of diesel oil 
Notes on event

At 20.51 hours on 8 Oct 1942 the unescorted Swiftsure (Master Marion Jackson Mathews Jr.) was hit aft on the starboard side by one torpedo from U-68 25 miles southeast of the Cape of Good Hope. The torpedo struck at the #8 tank, destroyed the ammonia lines to the ice machines and set the ship on fire. The crew fought the fire for 30 minutes, but then the eight officers and 25 crewmen (the ship was armed with two .30cal guns) had to abandon ship in three lifeboats. The boats circled the ship for several hours, hoping the flames would subside. The survivors were picked up by a British minesweeper and taken to Capetown, but the master and some crew members returned the next day to determine whether the ship could be salvaged. The tanker was still burning fiercely, an attempt to tow her to the coast failed and she finally sank about 62 hours after the torpedo hit.

On 21 October, 31 survivors left Capetown on the Zaandam, which was sunk by U-174 (Thilo) on 2 November. 16 of the original survivors died in this sinking. Eight crew members spent five days in a lifeboat before they were picked up by the Gulfstate, which took them to Trinidad, arriving on 13 November. Seven others in a lifeboat reached the coast of Brazil nine days after the sinking.

On boardWe have details of 31 people who were on board

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